Media Advocacy Coalition positively evaluates the first reading of amendments to the Law on "Broadcasting" by the Parliament of Georgia on June 28, which, among other things, concern the right of reply, the immediate enforcement of the regulator's decision, and the regulation of hate speech. It is important that the "ruling party" this time took into account the recommendations of the independent experts of the Council of Europe, as well as the representatives of the media and the civil sector.
Issues of hate speech, right of reply, or immediate enforcement of the Communications Commission's decision in the field of audiovisual media were significant challenges. Unfortunately, the parliament did not take into account the legitimate opinions of the media and the civil sector when adopting the amendments related to the issues mentioned in the "Broadcasting" law in December 2022.
On the basis of the Association Agreement with the European Union, Georgia undertook the implementation of the Audiovisual Media Services Directive, which provided for the regulation of hate speech among other issues. Representatives of the civil and media sectors favored the settlement of the mentioned issue taking into account the principles of co-regulation, which is in line with the European directive. Independent experts of the Council of Europe share this position as well, considering it an effective way to fight against hate speech, given the context in the country. The coalition and the media even prepared an alternative draft law on this issue, which, unfortunately, the ruling party did not consider when adopting the amendments last December. Issues of immediate execution of the regulator's decision and the right to reply were also problematic for media representatives. Even the Venice Commission was critical of a similar provision in the "Electronic Communications" law and called on the Parliament to abolish it. The existing draft law contains a compromise version, which significantly insures the risks that may arise in practice.
The draft law adopted by the Parliament of Georgia in the first reading on June 28, which is based on the recommendations offered by the independent experts of the media, civil sector, and the Council of Europe, is welcome. This change will make a positive contribution to the European integration process. It is also important that the Communications Commission, with the full involvement of the media and the civil sector, adopt relevant changes in the "Code of Conduct" of broadcasters in order to create an effective co-regulation mechanism.